Wednesday, April 27, 2016

USNA Hosts Banquet in Honor of Asian American, Pacific Islander Month

By MC2 Jonathan Correa

The U.S. Naval Academy hosted a banquet honoring the upcoming Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month April 25 at the Naval Academy Club.

Rear Adm. Victorino "Vic" G. Mercado, director of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Assessment Division, was the keynote speaker, specifically addressing the midshipmen on the increased diversity of the fleet they will be leading in the future.

Rear Adm. Victorino Mercado speaks at a USNA banquet honoring Asian American
and Pacific Islander Month. (Photo by MC2 Jonathan Correa)

“In the fleet, everyone has a different skin color, but in the wardroom, the ready room, your platoon, everyone is color-blind,” said Mercado. “You will carry your weight and work together no matter the difference.”

Mercado, a 1983 Naval Academy graduate, encouraged the midshipmen to develop their ambitions.

"Don’t limit yourself," said Mercado. “One of you in here could be the next chief of naval operations, or the commandant of the Marine Corps. The sky is the limit. You are part of the Brigade of Midshipmen that is steeped in history of naval and Marine Corps warriors.”

Attendees at the USNA banquet honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Month
(Photo by MC2 Jonathan Correa)

He also spoke about the history of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. military and the importance of remembering those earlier sacrifices, something that particularly resonated with the midshipmen present.

“Rear Adm. Mercado spoke on how we must understand that previous generations of Asian-Americans paved the way for our generation to become officers and make a difference,” said Midshipman 1st Class Zenas Yun. “Even at a time of tremendous racial discrimination and cultural prejudice, there were Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who helped defend and develop the United States.”

Asian Pacific American Heritage Week was first established in 1979. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush expanded the observance to encompass the month of May, and in 1992, Congress passed a law permanently designating May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

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